Dispensed: The curious case of a viral hashtag, SmileDirectClub's IPO plans, and the 29 books to read if you want to disrupt healthcare

Dispensed: The curious case of a viral hashtag, SmileDirectClub's IPO plans, and the 29 books to read if you want to disrupt healthcare

Smile Direct Club brightening



Just when you think you're headed for a slow August news week...

On Thursday, Emma Court spotted the hashtag #CVSDeniesCare going viral around Twitter.

So we spent the day getting to the heart of it. What we found was a dispute between birth control startup Pill Club and Caremark, the pharmacy benefit arm of CVS Health, over the reimbursement rates Pill Club gets for dispensing drugs to customers who use Caremark


A spokesman for CVS told Business Insider that the claims made by Pill Club are "extremely misleading."

The result is a strange tale of how a battle between 2 healthcare companies morphed into a viral Twitter backlash against CVS. You can read it here.

It probably won't be the end of that story, and it'll be interesting to see how the contract issue gets resolved. We'll keep you posted.

Then, Friday morning, $3.2 billion teeth-straightening company SmileDirectClub filed paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission to go public. It's the latest in the wave of digital health companies to make their way onto the public markets.

As a brief refresher, SmileDirectClub is a startup that provides clear aligners for teeth. While it typically costs anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000 to get traditional braces or Invisalign-brand aligners, SmileDirectClub goes for a fraction of that - you can either pay $1,895 up front, or a total of $2,290 total spread out over two years. The company was started by Alex Fenkell and Jordan Katzman in 2014.

Find the list of investors who stand to make the most when SmileDirectClub goes public here.

Are you new to our newsletter? You can sign up for Dispensed here.


This week, I had the scoop on Ancestry's future health ambitions after chatting with Ancestry CEO Margo Georgiadis. The company has long stuck to family trees rather than genetic predispositions, but that could soon change.

Margo Geogriadis

Ancestry's DNA test has traced the family histories of more than 15 million people. Now the genealogy giant plans to get into healthcare.

  • The genealogy giant Ancestry is planning to get into health in a big way, according to the company's CEO and a review of its job postings.
  • The company has historically avoided healthcare, even as personal-genetics companies like 23andMe have made it a key part of their businesses.
  • "The possibilities in consumer genomics to help really shift to individualized medicine, the opportunities are just endless," CEO Margo Georgiadis said in an interview.

Meanwhile, Emma has an essential read this week on Epidiolex, the first cannabis-derived drug approved by the FDA. A year in, here's what it's doing for those living with and caring for rare seizure disorders.

A groundbreaking drug made from cannabis has brought hope for kids with rare seizure disorders. We talked to parents, doctors, and the company's CEO to find out if it lives up the hype.

  • A new drug that's made from a component of cannabis called CBD became available in the US last year to treat rare forms of childhood epilepsy. That makes it the first cannabis-derived CBD drug in the US.
  • The medicine, Epidiolex, has a list price of $32,500 a year and has proven lucrative for drugmaker GW Pharmaceuticals.
  • Business Insider spoke with the parents of four kids who have taken the drug about what it's been like. For most of their kids, the treatment has helped to some degree, but they also recounted sometimes-severe side effects and long delays at the pharmacy.
  • The hype around marijuana and CBD raised hopes for many that Epidiolex would be a miracle cure, they and doctors who prescribe the treatment say.
  • Experiences with Epidiolex foreshadow the issues that other cannabis-based drugs could grapple with as more come to market.

And the young-blood company Erin Brodwin has been following - Ambrosia - had a big update this week. It's shut down, but its founder Jesse Karmazin isn't done yet. He's launching a new company, this one named Ivy Plasma that will provide blood transfusions that aren't age-specific.

Read more about the end of Ambrosia and the beginnings of Ivy Plasma here.

We put out a lot more from the 30 healthcare leaders under 40 project we launched last week. (Missed it? Here's the main list.)


Get your reading lists ready... we asked all of our nominees for the healthcare books they'd recommend you pick up if you're looking for a better understanding of healthcare. Here's what they told us.

30 leaders in healthcare_2x1

The 29 best books to read if you want to disrupt US healthcare, according to top young leaders in the $3.5 trillion industry

And then some more posts and profiles based on our conversations with the nominees.

I'll leave you with two pieces of news you can use.

Clarrie Feinstein and policy fellow Joseph Zeballos-Roig took a close look at how Medicare For All would change every single part of the massive, $3.5 trillion healthcare industry we have here in the US. Read more to find out how it would affect employers, doctors, hospitals, drugmakers, insurers and more.


And Clarrie and Emma rounded up the 28 biotech startups that have at traced the most venture cash (ergo, prime candidates for M&A or an IPO). You can check out the full list here.

This is the last you'll hear from me for the next three weeks! I'm off starting next Wednesday to prep for my wedding and then will be off on my honeymoon. In the meantime, you'll be hearing from the rest of the healthcare team here, which should be a fun change of pace. They'll keep you up to date with all the goings on in healthcare while I delete my Twitter app and take a break from it all.

Hope you all have a great rest of your summer!

- Lydia

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